MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- The title of Faith Evans's latest CD, ''The First Lady" is a pun on her position as the widow of the Notorious B.I.G., who holds a revered place in hip-hop history. But as Evans proved at her Saturday performance at Foxwoods's Fox Theatre, she has more than enough talent (and fans) to move out of his shadow. Some of those supporters were on their feet by the second song in the set, spellbound by how Evans applied her gospel-flavored voice to hip-hop beats. There were times at the crescendo of heartfelt ballads when that voice seemed to screech rather than sing, but overall it was a stellar showing.
The bulk of Evans's work is sweet love songs about a faithful woman trying hard to make a relationship work. The angry songs popular among the current crop of modern divas embarrass her. After singing her woman-scorned hit, ''You Gets No Love," which includes the vengeful lyrics, ''You can't even be my friend and you gets no love again/ Whatever you do, it will come back to you," she demurred, ''I'm really a nice young lady." But the woman's got the diva in her as well. Thirty minutes into the set she changed from a blue dress into an angelic white sequined one, leaving the audience to nod its head to the ministrations of DJ Hurricane for a few minutes.
It's been four years since Evans's last CD, ''Faithfully." In the interim she's been through a record company change, a drug possession case, and a wrongful death lawsuit for her late husband that was recently ruled a mistrial by a California court. The lengthy absence may explain why she mostly performed quick snapshots of the songs from her first three CDs -- a stanza here and a bridge there from hits such as '''Soon As I Get Home," ''I Remember," and ''Never Gonna Let You Go." Only when she got to the songs from ''The First Lady," in the second half of the show, did she perform them in their entirety. But too often she only offered perfect renditions. The exception came when she wrenched every note out of the best song on the CD, ''Stop N Go." It was moments such as those, when Evans let go, that she truly shined.
Vanessa E. Jones can be reached at email@example.com